Alternative Aid is an important program for lowincome working families
by Crystal Bond
A ShortTerm Alternative to TANF
Families can now apply for the Alternative Aid program benefit once every 12
months. Previously a family could get Alternative Aid only once in a
lifetime. However, a new law that took effect on September 12th changed this
rule, to make this benefit more available to families who need it.
Alternative Aid is an important program for lowincome working familiesbut
many don't know about it. This program helps families with children who are
not on TANF resolve problems that prevent them from getting or keeping a
job. For example, the program provides help with car repairs, childcare,
uniforms or even help with housingrelated emergencies, if those things are
needed to help them get or keep a job. Aid is given in the form of a
voucher and can equal up to three month's worth of TANF benefits ($1,455 for
a family of 3). The income eligibility limit for this program has been
increased from its formerly very low level to 133% of the poverty level.
(See chart below.)
Families are eligible for Alternative Aid if they meet the income, asset and
other eligibility requirements for TANF, (such as deprivation) and the
parent or caretaker relative in the family has a job or is looking for one.
For example, looking at the chart below, a family of 3 with income of less
than $1,841 a month may be eligible for Alternative Aid; a family of 2 with
income less than $1,463 a month may be eligible. One important difference
between TANF and Alternative Aid is that once a person has been determined
eligible, a parent's wages do not count when figuring the amount of the
Alternative Aid grant.
VOUCHERS NOT CASH
Alternative aid doesn't come as a cash benefit. Instead, it takes the form
of vouchers for services or items that the family needs. Because it is a
voucher, it will not affect a family's food stamp benefit. For example, a
family of 3 who is eligible for Alternative Aid and having no other income
could be eligible for up to $1455 in vouchers for car repairs, or other
items or services that they need to get or keep a job. Families who receive
Alternative Aid are not required to sign their child support over to the
state or be involved with the ASPIRE program.
DECIDE THAT YOU NEED MORE HELP?
A family that receives Alternative Aid but decides it really needs
longer-term help from the TANF Program can still apply for and get TANF. If
they apply for TANF during the 3 months they are receiving Alternative Aid,
the Alternative Aid must be repaid for any time during which the family
received both Alternative Aid and TANF. The repayment method is the same as
that used for the repayment of unintentional overpayments in TANF. (For
families receiving the full TANF grant, Department of Health and Human
Services will keep 10% of the family's benefit until it is repaid. For
families receiving less than the full TANF amount - usually because they
have some other source of income DHHS will keep 30% of the family's TANF
benefit until it is repaid.) You can apply for Alternative Aid by
contacting your local DHHS office.
Alternative Aid Monthly Income Limits
Family Size 133% Federal Poverty Level
If you have any questions about this program or the change in the law, feel
free to contact Maine Equal Justice.
Crystal M. Bond
Maine Equal Justice Partners
126 Sewall Street
Augusta, Maine 04330
18666267059 x 205
207 6267058 x 205
fax: 207 6218148